State monitoring spill at Tesoro pipeline facility near Cook Inlet

The spill location and photo of the leak on Dec. 18, 2016 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Graphic courtesy Tesoro)

Workers at a Tesoro facility on the Kenai Peninsula are cleaning up contaminated soil and snow after more than 120 gallons of oily water spilled out of a pipeline near Cook Inlet. The company notified the state of the spill at its Kenai Pipeline Facility on Dec. 18.

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Jade Gamble, who works in spill response with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, has been doing site visits ever since.

“The spill was contained very quickly,” Gamble said. “They were on-site when it happened, and they were able to deploy some absorbent boom around the spill so that it did not spread any further.”

Gamble said the cleanup has been slow.  They’re using hand axes and jackhammers to chip away at the frozen soil. The company will process the contaminated snow and water onsite, while the soil will be burned. Workers also drained and shut down the pipe.

Gamble said it isn’t yet clear exactly how the spill happened.

“They’ve discovered two holes in the line,” Gamble said. “But we don’t know if there’s any others, like I say because some of it’s subsurface.”

The company is cleaning up what has been contaminated and exploring the buried parts of the line to make sure there are no other leaks. In an emailed statement, Tesoro said there have been no injuries or impacts on local wildlife. Gamble said the spill hasn’t reached Cook Inlet.

According to DEC data, there have been at least five spills over 50 gallons at that facility in the last 17 years.

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Rashah McChesney is a photojournalist turned radio journalist who has been telling stories in Alaska since 2012. Before joining Alaska's Energy Desk , she worked at Kenai's Peninsula Clarion and the Juneau bureau of the Associated Press. She is a graduate of Iowa State University's Greenlee Journalism School and has worked in public television, newspapers and now radio, all in the quest to become the Swiss Army knife of storytellers.